Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cricket in Colombia

I've mentioned the sport, cricket, a few times on this blog and in other places related to life in Colombia.  I played fairly regularly as a child in school up until the age of 16 or so, and have always taken an interest in the international game, of which my highlight has to be managing to get into Old Trafford on the last day of the 2005 Ashes test match, when 25,000 people were locked out of the packed stadium.  I pushed in the queue to get in, which is rather shameful, but would I do it again to witness the game come down to the final ball, definitely.  Anyway, this most quintessential of English sports has become quite a big fixture of our expat life in Cali over the last few months.

Peter Martin's great design work
Thanks to the many hours of organising by David Muirhead, Cali was able to host its first 'competitive' cricket game since 2002 against Bogotá last weekend.  The build up involved several fairly rigorous (depending on how old you are!) training sessions under the watchful eye of resident Aussie, Tony Carter, and even some net sessions at the restaurant in Rozo.   Arrangements were made for the British Ambassador, John Dew, to come down, t-shirts and caps embroidered with the new logo, social events planned, and eventually, the weekend arrived.  Captain Dennis Jarvis even gave strict instructions to the welcome party to get the Bogotá boys out on the lash in Cali on the Friday evening, in an attempt to cripple their batting line up the following day.  3am phone calls enquiring about the whereabouts of people's kit seems to ensure that was done to good effect.

Getting to the Colombo for the game may have involved a failing convoy of various overloaded vehicles and a few beers, but Friday's rain held off and the 20/20 version of the game was quickly under way with Cali winning the toss and putting Bogotá into bat.  The first over featured 2 sixes as the openers aggressively took on the Cali attack, but Andy Jarvis quickly replied with 2 wickets in the following over. A few chances could have been taken but the middle order ploughed on to take the score to 109/3 off 9 overs, a good building block for the rest of the innings.  Wickets continued to fall, until an impressive last pair stand by a passing traveller in the team and an imposter from the Cali crew, taking their score to a mighty 189 all out off the 20 overs.

Andy Jarvis batting
The Cali innings got off to a decent start with John and Tony, but two wickets in an over, including my own for a very irritating golden duck, were then followed by a middle order collapse.  John scored 44, and then Andy Jarvis took on the Bogotá attack with the tail, scoring a potent 32, but the lack of any partners was always going to prove problematic with Bogotá's bowlers on top form, the nomadic traveller making his mark with a 5 wicket haul.  We were all out for 98, giving the Bogotá team a resounding victory in the 'warm up' game.

We then headed off to the Carlos' residence for some wonderful hospitality to relax after the game.  The delicious paella was swished down with lots of booze, a bit of kareoke and dancing was also had, and all in all , a bloody good time was had by everyone!

Post game social at Carlos'
I then had to leave on the Sunday, so wasn't able to take part in the game, but from what I understand, the Bogotá team very much left their hungover heads on the hostel pillows.  Batting first again, they wilted in the hot Cali sun, and were all out for 133, letting Cali romp to victory by 9 wickets.  John and Tony Carter each scored half centuries and Tony was then named 'Man of the Match,' a fitting way to mark his last outing for the team before he leaves Cali.

Some turned up just to support, others helped out with the hospitality, some just played, but everyone got involved with the event and I think I can speak for everyone that came in saying a great weekend was had by all.  Rumours are already flying around about getting a rematch set up for November in Bogotá, I'm sure they'll want to take us on at altitude. Cricket may have its home back on village greens in England, but a football pitch in tropical Cali, Colombia, didn't prove too bad a venue I must say!

I'm back in England now, planning my cycle trip from Barcelona to Milan, starting in 2 weeks.  I'm then working in a summer language school before heading back to Cali again in August, for another year...or so!  Follow me on Twitter @latino_dave for ongoing updates on these adventures...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Events Back Home

When deciding to live abroad you have to be aware that in doing so you'll be detaching yourself from lots of things that have had a big influence on your life as you've grown up, your friends and family most significantly, but also news, sporting and cultural events that are constantly on going.  There aren't too many days when I really miss England, but watching Man Utd win the record breaking 19th title slightly hungover on Saturday morning and the victory against Chelsea last week, I thought it'd be great to be back home, enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of success whilst marauding slightly inebriated around Manchester city centre.

Although everyone is probably sick of hearing about the Royal Wedding two weeks ago, the same has to be said for that.  This was a truly global, once in a generation event, so much so that when teaching my 3rd grade children (8 years old) in the week before it, they knew more about some of the background and traditions than me, I was astonished.  Being in London, or just in England, for that special holiday period to soak up the feel good vibe, sing along with 'Jerusalem' and wave a cheap Union Jack around would have been fantastic, but then life's twists and turns have brought me here to Colombia and I suppose if there's a Royal Wedding in another 30 years or so, I'll be able to look back on this one and remember my crazy few years in tropical Cali.  As to where I'll be then, that's another matter!

And then in 2 weeks time, the ultimate occasion in club football, the Champions League Final, between Manchester United and Barcelona, comes to Wembley.  I was living in Chile for the 2008 penalty victory over Chelsea, so missed the manic celebrations in Manchester at John Terry's expense, but did venture to Rome to see the humiliating loss against Barca in 2009, although we had a fantastic few days in the Italian capital.  A friend has got hold of a ticket for the Wembley showcase, and I even met a Colombian guy last week who has splashed out €2,000 a piece for the game - he's going to London just for that, must be very flush with cash!

Even though I'll be able to watch the game just as easily here as in England on cable TV, with a few friends and accompanying beers no doubt, it'd be nice to be in a bar in Manchester, or London for that matter, and be surrounded by all the anticipation and excitement associated with such monumental events.  A global audience of 1 billion or whatever it will be just adds to the hype of it all, and I am very much looking forward to what I hope will be a victorious day for my team!

Next summer then brings the Olympics, the biggest show of them all to London.  Despite all the scepticism towards seemingly every aspect of the event, which I think is a very unfortunate aspect of the British psyche, it should be a great show piece and, as long as it doesn't piss down for the two weeks, a wonderful advert for the country.  I've just accepted a job at a bilingual school and will be in Cali for another year, but my holidays would coincide with at least some of the Games, so hopefully I maybe back in England to witness some of the spectacle.

Morning mist and sun in Cali
Obviously the wonders of the internet make it much easier to keep in touch with all of these things nowadays, but there is a part of me that always wants to be there.  This is just the case too with friends and family, the first of my good mates from university has just got engaged back in England, and living abroad would probably mean missing out on that wedding, depending on when and where it happens.  These are all things that affect people living away and can make it hard at times, but then you wake up, look at the morning sun shining on the 4,000m Andes that tower over Cali, and think what a cool thing you're doing in the meantime.  I don't know too many people back home saying that about their current job at the moment.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Colombia doesn't help itself sometimes

Over the past few decades Colombia has had its fair share of very well documented problems regarding drugs, poverty, violent crime and guerilla warfare to name just a few issues, but I generally try and use this blog to focus on the more positive or amusing aspects of life in this country.  I sort of feel a responsibility to tell the world (or my limited blog audience!) about this beautiful place and all the things it has to offer to someone like me, a young man looking for a different adventure to the standard graduate life back home.  However, every now and again, you hear a story of such preposterous proportions that just makes you shake your head and wonder why you bother.

This is the current situation at the university where I worked last year.  La Universidad Santiago de Cali is fairly typical of many in South America, quite well respected academically, but lacking in terms of resources for staff and students, even compared to other universities in Cali.  Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my time there, a fairly cushy job that was relatively well paid and gave me valuable teaching experience, which is now very relevant for my plans to work in a school next year.  However, the university is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal that is affecting both staff and students a like.

USACA - "We're fighting"
It came to light a few months ago that the university was in "financial difficulties," this in spite of having 14,000 students who either fund their own courses or receive government support.  The university has unpaid tax bills, hasn't paid staff health insurance payments since late 2010, has reduced salaries and restricted the amount of hours teachers can teach, all because of this financial crisis.  And the reason behind this?  Not falling student numbers, not reduced government subsidies like in England (this is a private university), but pure and simple, corruption.

It turns out the Rector and his close group of cronies were swindling huge amounts of money out of the university every month, some say amounts that even supersede what the Colombian President earns which is $18 million (pesos) a month, about £6,000.  This is in a university where some students pay up to $7 million a semester, a substantial sum no matter how you look at it.  I'm not sure how long this has been going on, but the now ex-Rector had been in charge since 2001 and the fact the university is in such a precarious position financially, where teachers are only receiving half of what they are owed, indicates it must have been happening for a substantial amount of time.  Other stories such as university credit cards racking up millions of pesos of unaccounted for spending and all expenses paid trips abroad all contribute to this staggering abuse of university funds.

"Where's our money gone?"
Of course, there are consequences to all this.  As I said, teachers have had to suffer with cuts in pay and now delays in even getting that, and this feeds through to the main teaching activities, with some refusing to give classes, so students who have paid their semester fees are suffering.  It's a vicious circle that threatens the very existence of a significant educational institution, it'll be difficult to attract new students in such a volatile and uncertain climate.  There were rumours of government intervention, but the university constitution is fairly rigid on these things from what I understand, and that would also go against the principles of the proposed "Ley 30" educational reforms, which intends to bring in more private, rather than public, funds to higher education.

But, I go back to the title of this post.  Why is a university in such dire straits?  Is it because of the cocaine trade, or because of, it's just an institutionalised system of corruption which has existed in a country for generations.  On Transparency International's Corruption Map Colombia comes out at 3.5 on a scale of 0-10, admittedly better than either of its neighbours, Venezuela (2) and Ecuador (2.5), but no where near the continental leaders of Chile (7.2) and Uruguay (6.9).

As a foreigner living abroad, you're very aware that you're representing your country every time you step out the door and interact with people in the street, whether you like it or not.  And on the contrary, every Colombian is representing their country when they interact with me.  Now on the most part, that is with the wonderful, outgoing and joyful nature that just about everyone here has in abundance, but unfortunately, if you're a foreigner who´s a teacher at a university and are not receiving your salary because of financial problems that have nothing to do with you, it doesn't help the reputation of the country abroad at all, quite the opposite in fact.

In other news, a man stabbed his girlfriend to death two weeks ago at 7am on a Saturday morning whilst on the MIO metro bus, after an argument.  Now,'re a truly beautiful country with lots to offer, but how can we try and sell this country to the world as a place to come, visit and enjoy when this sort of stuff goes on?

Monday, March 28, 2011

No Need for Summer Time in Cali

When in England the last weekend of March with the clocks moving forward is always one of my favourite times of the year.  All of a sudden, the extra hour is created that rapidly lengthens as the summer progresses, giving us long, and occasionally warm and sunny, evenings that are perfect for playing sport, BBQs and drinking outside with friends.

It has to be said, one of the best things about living in Cali is the climate, I think it's officially described as semi-tropical but makes socialising in the evenings so pleasant and easy.  Last Saturday night we stayed up playing the Colombian game 'sapo,' (sort of like darts) and drinking on a terrace overlooking the city until 4am with no worries at all about the temperature and no need to go to a bar as you generally do back home.  This can't be said of all Colombian cities, the varying altitude throughout this mountainous country means every city has it's own individual climate.  Bogotá (2,600m) is pretty cold and grey generally, the coast is incredibly humid and hot, Medellin (1,500m) is very pleasant and Cali (900m) can be too hot during the day when the temperature is around 30oC, but is a perfect 20 or so in the evenings.

Typical early morning from my room
The year round summer does seem strange at times however.  Hearing friends back home now remark about the sun coming out and having no need to wear coats doesn't really register with me - it's always like that here!  Nearly April?!  The month and seasons are pretty meaningless in Cali, some months of the year there's more rain but they all sort of merge into one really.  Leaves on trees fall off every now and again instead of all at once, grass grows year round, sunrise is around 6am, and sunset about 6pm - all this comes from being so close to the Equator, which is only 300 miles or so south of Cali near Quito, Ecuador.

There's always pros and cons to everything.  Caleños talk with great excitement about whenever they go somewhere 'cold' - by cold they mean about 15oC or so in the mountains above Cali, not -20oC on a winter's night in the north of England as it was in December.  I'd like to see them experience that and talk with such enthusiasm about not being hot.  Some people say they love the rain that comes in torrential downpours a few times a week, but being from Manchester I'm not convinced by this, I don't think I'll ever miss the constant pissy drizzle I was subjected to all my childhood.
Cricket in a tropical climate

Even though it can seem strange playing cricket in January, there's more advantages to this climate than negatives.  The whole Caleño lifestyle is based around socialising, and the wonderful weather makes this possible.  Adults drinking and dancing salsa on the street, story tellers in the park at the weekend, children on their bikes every night - it does make for a lovely lifestyle, and one that doesn't make me miss the cold and wet of a January night whatsoever.

Here's a link to my second Guardian article that I had published 2 weeks ago about teaching English in South America.  They spelt my name wrong, again, but have since learned how to spell Colombia, so some progress made.
I've also written a few pieces for my fellow Geography graduates, Michael Gray and Joe Richardson, from Leeds University on their "Gradulthood" site, which is about us graduates from the recession foraging our way into the world of work, in an ever more competitive and demanding job market.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Minutes, Minutes, and how to run a Colombian Business

Mobile phones are just as big a part of life in South America as anywhere else in the world, but the cost of ringing cross networks here in Colombia is pretty expensive comparatively, and most people can't afford the direct debit, monthly contracts with hundreds of included minutes that we all have back home, just having simple pay as you go deals instead.  Consequently, 'minutes' are a recurring feature on any street in Colombia.  Basically it's some random Tom, Dick or Harry with a phone for each operator, Comcel, Movistar and Tigo, who you pay a couple of hundred pesos per minute or so to use their phone to call someone on a different network.  A very simple idea that all of a sudden gives a lot of people an enterprising opportunity for employment in a country where about 40% of work is in the informal sector.

Minutes in action
It's more or less like having a phone box on every street corner, and generates quite a few interesting social nuances.  First, if someone's calling you from a 'minutes' phone and you don't necessarily want to speak to them, for whatever reason, it's already too late, you've picked up because you don't know who's calling you and are then having to think of an excuse on the spot for ignoring the said person.  Next, there's the annoying one bell phenomenon.  If someone wants to talk to you but is too tight to use their own minutes, they'll give you a quick 'one bell' and hope you call them back, and be unreasonably annoyed if you don't.  My policy on this matter is to ignore these futile attempts to control you , if someone really wants to speak to me, they will pay a few hundred pesos to do it.  Phone etiquette also goes out the window.  A call creeping over from 59 seconds to 1 minute means another 200 pesos to pay, so conversations just end rather abruptly with the bare minimum discussed.

Minutes on a personal level are one thing, arranging nights out and such is made a bit more complicated by having to nip in and out to ring various people, but you get used to that.  However, I learnt the other day that the phone package at the language institute where I work is also minutes based, and that they have run out for the month.

So a bizarre situation currently exists where a business cannot ring anyone and just hope people call them for the next week or so.  I asked the obvious question of why they don't just get some more minutes, and how this would be just inconceivable in any developed country.  A business nowadays just couldn't operate or survive without a phone or internet, but it appears possible in Colombia (at least I hope it is possible here otherwise I might be looking for another employer soon!).  I was then told that they only gets 500 minutes a month anyway which I found bewildering.  500 minutes?!  That's about one Colombian working day, and seen as a fairly menial quantity even for personal use, and this leads me onto a more general topic of how businesses work here.

Foreign businesses often get a lot of stick in South America, especially the big transnationals, where they're seen as a capitalist threat to the established businesses of a country.  But on another level I can understand how they do so well here.  Foreign owners and managers obviously impose their own policies on efficiency, organisation and communication.  Colgate have a big presence here in Cali and I can't imagine they ever run out of minutes, and when you're in a competitive market these things obviously work in your favour.  Hence if someone wants to learn English at one institute and they don't contact you, they'll just go a few blocks away and enrol there instead.

I do often think about opening my own business and whilst it's never an easy thing to do, no matter what country you're in, if you imposed certain things on your employees in Colombia, you'd already be a mile ahead of the opposition.  Punctuality that means you open on time, respond to emails and get a phone package with minutes and you're onto a winner.  This is all part of living abroad though, there's some things from a different culture that'll you never understand, but add a novelty and variety to your everyday life that you'd never get at home, but make you appreciate those ever so basic things from your own country all the more so.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Help for Expats Abroad

Being an English teacher abroad, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the news and what’s going on around you.   At the best of times, things such as strikes can spontaneously break out and disrupt your daily business, as has happened this week at the uni where I used to work.  Students have taken it upon themselves to strike against University “financial irregularities,” or corruption to me and you, and consequently bugger up transport around the place.

Then there’s events like elections, in Colombia the sale of alcohol in shops, bars and nightclubs is brought to a complete halt by law for the entire voting weekend.  A bit drastic insisting on people vote sober some might say, but there are serious safety reasons behind “La Ley Seca” (Dry Law), which when looking into Colombia’s recent history, isn’t hard to fathom why.

However, volatile political regimes and different systems of government around the world do mean that in some cases, your adopted hometown can very quickly turn full circle into a virtual war zone, as in some areas of the Middle East at the moment.  The news has been dominated by the ongoing situation in Libya and the plight of British expats trying urgently to leave the country, a lot of these people will have similar jobs to myself, being teachers in international schools, universities and institutes who've gone to live abroad for a different adventure and experience.  It just so happens that on this occasion the adventure has unfortunately got a bit too real and so they've had to frantically pack up and put their life on hold for the moment.

The British Foreign Office appears to have received a fair amount of stick about how they’ve been 'evacuating' these expats, and it got me thinking about a possible predicament in Colombia and what’d happen here in a similar situation.  I’ll emphasise now that Colombia is currently very stable politically, probably more so now than at any point in the last thirty years or so, but natural disasters such as the earthquake in New Zealand, can happen here and provoke much needed diplomatic help for citizens abroad.

As Britain supposedly has the highest amount of expats from the developed world with figures suggesting up to 5 million of us live abroad (I'm not sure what that says about Britain itself!), it's no small feat to look after and provide assistance when required to them all through costly embassies and consular offices.  Obviously, most enquiries are probably to do with passports lost on a drunken night out, amongst other more bizarre requests, some of which just take the piss really, but do provide entertaining reading.

From time to time however, more serious situations arise as in Libya and New Zealand now, and British citizens genuinely need help, and for this the Foreign Office has a service called 'Locate'.  It encourages expats abroad to register their personal details in case of emergencies so that assistance can be organised, whether that be sending an email with some advice or an entire chartered plane as in Libya's case.  If you're reading this from abroad and you're not registered, I recommend doing so.  I've got no experience of actually using it myself, but you never know when it could come in handy, and for the sake of spending a few minutes giving a few details about yourself, it's hardly an effort.

It's worth looking at at their travel advice whenever you're going away, it's specific for just about every country in the world, and is constantly updated.  I do think it can be a little too cautious, but I suppose they have to be like that, and going on a weekend trip to Paris is not quite the same as backpacking around South America, but it's horses for courses, and if anything did happen, your parents would be the first to complain anyway!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Global Reach of Blighty's Sport and Music

I was watching the Super Bowl highlights last night, not really understanding American football as usual, but thinking how this event, one of the most watched in the world, represents completely different things inside and outside America.  Inside, it's the end of the domestic season for the national sport, the culmination of a 6 month long, nationwide competition.  Whereas for the rest of us around the world, it's the $3,000 a seat, Black Eyed Peas performance, and million dollar commercials that send a message loud and clear to us all - this is the country that puts on the biggest show on the planet and the place to be.

Well, the Super Bowl and America may have their moment once a year, but I think one of England's greatest exports of recent times, the Premier League, has a much wider and more profound impact around the world.  The video below is shown on Fox Sports and ESPN all over South America, and I imagine further afield too, before the start of the games and really does paint the country in a fantastic light.  Beautiful, iconic landmarks, both old and new, lovely weather (!), brilliant English music and some of the most historic clubs in the game make our 'football' look much cooler and more exciting than that American version over the pond.   With end to end games like 4-4 draws and 5-3 wins last weekend, you can see why.

You only have to walk around any city centre in South America and see the hundreds of people wearing and selling counterfeit Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal tshirts to realise the incredible reach the Premier League has, much more so than the traditional American sports, and that despite America's dominance of TV in Latin America.  More English games are broadcast live here than back home, and the main broadcasters, ESPN and Fox, are included in standard cable TV packages that most homes have across the continent, rather than an expensive Sky package.

It's easy to see how our 'big' teams can so easily claim to have millions of fans across the globe, and how that plays such an influence on potential future stars of the game.  Hugo Rodallega at Wigan is the one current Colombian schoolboys look up to, but Faustino Asprilla's Champions League hat-trick for Newcastle against Barcelona is what is constantly brought up in conversations with Colombians.  The rags to riches stories of Brazilian players using football as a way out of the favelas to the grounds of top European clubs is a dream of many young men here, and even though it will remain just that, a dream, for the vast majority of them, that is more than enough motivation to spend a childhood devoted to football in the park.  The hopes and dreams being to escape lives where drug gangs and poverty are much more prominent than social provision and education.

On a slightly different note, the new Coca-Cola commercial for South America is also introducing the masses over here to English culture.  Oasis' "Whatever" is the song  for the "Reasons to Believe" advert, basically telling us the world is not all bad, we should buy a coke and be happy.  Very clever advertising, getting a load of kids to sing Liam Gallagher's words in a less Mancunian accent appears to work wonders.  My kids at school are all asking me if we can sing along to it, so a great excuse to introduce them to not just that, but all the other magnificent Oasis tunes too, and then the Manchester music scene aswell, The Smiths, Happy Mondays et al - a lesson planned like that!  Maybe Oasis should strike whilst the iron's hot, get back together and do a South American tour on the back of this?  On the other hand, I'm sure the royalties from that advert will be more than sufficient for a few more years before the inevitable reunion tour.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Back in Colombia

Here I am then, back in Cali!  This is the first time I've returned overseas to a place I've previously lived in, I was in Santiago, Chile, for my year abroad, but despite having probably the best year of my life overall, didn't really feel the urge to go and live there again, there's probably something in my head that is afraid of going back to somewhere with such fond memories and then not living up to expectation second time round.  Anyway, I wanted to return to a place I know, with friends, contacts and so on, and Cali fitted the bill, so I've now been "re-settling in" for the last two weeks with Stephen's family, an English guy who's lived here for 30 years or so and who works at the Santiago, where I was last year.

Landslide near Medellin, December
It's strange to be here again.  Memories come flooding back, both good and bad, and it's hard to think that lots has changed in the seven or so months I was away, not least the fact I've crossed a continent on a bike, which is a great talking point with any of the many Americans that I know here.  Cali's weather seems to be exactly the same as I remember it, hot, sunny and tropical most days, but it's worth mentioning that since I left last June, Colombia has suffered torrential rainfall up and down the country, due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, causing deadly landslides and flooding vast areas of land.

I managed to get one of my old jobs back in the school I worked at, but that's just one day a week.  My main job was at a university, but things don't look great there now.  Rumour has it they're under investigation by the government for corruption, staff pay and hours reduced and the suspension of recruiting new teachers all lead to me to believe it doesn't look good to work there again!  I've been handing my CV into language institutes, schools and other universities, so just have to keep at it and hope something comes up, which it should, and tout private classes in the meantime.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cali, Colombia - A New York Times Recommended Destination!

The New York Times have just published their 41 places to go in 2011, I'm not sure what's relevant about the number 41, but anyway, Cali, where I'm moving to on Tuesday and lived last year, has come in at number 10! Here's what the articles says:

Cali's Feria

10. Cali, Colombia

Cafe culture is on the rise while salsa fuels the night life.

Cali has always felt like the grittier stepsister of Medellín, but tucked amid the colonial homes of the barrios of San Antonio or Granada are a number of new jewelry boutiques, low-key cafes and salsotecas teeming with crowds as sexy as any in South America.

Salsa remains Cali’s lifeblood. If the dance floors of Tin Tin Deo or Zaperoco are too full, try La Fuente, a pint-size bar jammed with sweaty students who spill out onto the street most nights. Or, follow the sounds of Latin jazz to Guayusa, just next door. Those with serious salsa chops hitch a cab out of town to the suburb of Juanchito, whose dance floors do not fill up until after midnight (but go in a group, as this section gets dicey at those hours). Also be sure to check out a performance of Delirio, the monthly cabaret that is part Cirque du Soleil, part salsa clinic.

I'll be right in the mix again this time next week, hopefully!

P.S.  After looking at the list in more detail I see Santiago, Chile, is number 1, and I lived there between 2007 and 2008, and Manchester, my home city back in England, is number 20!  It appears I obviously live in cool places!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Getting Ready for Colombia Round 2

It's been an odd few months since finishing my CELTA, preparing gradually for my return to Colombia, earning a few quid where possible, whilst not particularly enjoying the winter...I missed last year's snow and ice whilst in tropical Cali.

Top Gear, fantastic TV
In spite of the weather, I do come to enjoy living in England after having been abroad for a year or so at a time before.  You appreciate so many more things about the country, one of my favourites is TV.  I'm convinced British television is the best in the world, nowhere else could you just turn the TV on on any random evening and have a fascinating documentary on a free-to-air channel about some landmark building constructed hundreds of years ago, or watch three middle aged men drive from Iraq to Israel in convertibles, as with the Christmas Top Gear Special.  You can get some of the big programmes on YouTube when abroad, like X Factor, which when seeing foreign versions of the franchise, you realise how fantastic the British version really is as a TV show, if not for the artists it produces, but it's good to be here and not have to trawl the internet for hours to find these shows.

In between everything else, I've been trying to write my book on America and have made a decent, if not especially fast, start to it.  Book authoring is a long haul thing I think.
The Guardian have just published an article I wrote for them on teaching English in South America which I hope is useful for anyone thinking of teaching or moving abroad.  The person who typed it up did however spell my name and Colombia wrong, and spelt "South America" without a capital, and it hasn't been corrected at the time of posting this, so don't blame me!

Won't be seeing this for a while!
It's a bit more daunting going back to Colombia this time.  I don't have a concrete job offer and therefore no visa either, which means I've got two months to get that sorted, so there'll be no time to lose once there.  Unfortunately this urgency will probably be lost on the immigration person who deals with me, and I'm not ruling out the idea of having to border hop to Ecuador to get myself another tourist visa when my work visa is delayed.  I'll have to cross that metaphorical bridge when I get to it.  I do have friends in Cali though, and know where I want to live, so that should make settling in considerably easier, as will the lack of anything remotely like cold weather.  I'll have to find my salsa feet again too!

I leave on Tuesday and this blog will be updated every now and again with my various Latin adventures and escapades, so make it a favourite or you can now follow me on Twitter!  If anyone wants to contact me for whatever reason, you can do so by clicking on my profile on the right-hand side, or also through Twitter.